Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"The Day of the Doctor"

Spoilers ahead:

The 50th Anniversary special episode was, of course, excellent. It was well written, well-acted, and had a wonderful series of references to past material that made fans laugh and cheer. (Some of the humor was of that special variety that was truly funny, but that required a knowledge of the history of the show that simultaneously entertained and gave on a sense of belonging.) All of that said, it also offered a couple of special—if paradoxical—lessons.

The historical context needed to understand the overarching plot of the show concerns something known as the Time War. Ever since the series returned from its long hiatus in 2005, we have known that there was a war between the Doctor’s people and their archenemies known as the Daleks. We also know that the Doctor did something to end that war that completely destroyed both his and the Daleks’ world with both civilizations. Two simultaneous cases of genocide, if you will. However, the Doctor has been pretty tight-lipped as to details of that action.

In this special, we get to see the Doctor as he is preparing to end the war. To do so, he has stolen the Time Lords’ most advanced and devastating weapon ever conceived; a weapon so advanced it developed a conscience and was never used. As the show explains, “How do you use a weapon of ultimate mass destruction when it can stand in judgment of you?” Well, before the Doctor can use it, it sends him to his own future to see the men that he will become.

What he sees is the first lesson. That act of genocide, though necessary in order to save the universe from the evil of the war, is something that the Doctor has regretted ever since. In fact—even though he was a good man beforehand who always helped people and fought evil—he has become an even more tireless force for good, righting wrongs and saving lives. His past mistakes and regrets have helped make the Doctor who he is.

However, as the War Doctor returns to his own time determined to repeat his wrong (confident that it is his only option, and that it will make him a better person) he is joined by his future selves. Though they come to help him the oldest version of the Doctor (who has had the longest time to consider his actions) changes his own history. He sets in motion a plan that will save the universe, end the war, and not kill his people. (The Daleks will all still die, but at their own hands… er, plungers?)

That is the second lesson. Even when it seems like there is no choice but evil, the “necessary evil,” that is a lie. One can always do the right thing. It may not be easy, and it may cost a tremendous price, it is always the preferable choice. We are not time travelers standing in eternity, able to calculate all the outcomes. We may not have the power to change our history, but we can know someone who does see the bigger picture.

So, do good always and trust the outcome to Him.

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